6 Best Beaches Near Orlando to Explore

Relax, take an adventure or see the sights at these great beaches within driving distance of Orlando

There’s a reason Orlando is nicknamed the “Theme Park Capital of the World.” In 2018, 75 million visitors flocked to the Florida city that’s home to Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando Resort and SeaWorld Orlando.

After a thrilling time at the parks, you may want to enjoy one of the many beaches just a short drive away. Pick up your rental car from one of Alamo’s nine Orlando locations and hit a nearby beach with tips from this guide. Make sure your vehicle is roomy enough to suit your family’s needs — SUV and minivan options accommodate up to eight people and four suitcases.

  1. Cocoa Beach
  2. New Smyrna Beach
  3. Daytona Beach
  4. Canaveral National Seashore
  5. Clearwater Beach
  6. Honeymoon Island State Park

Cocoa Beach

  • About 60 miles from Orlando.

  • Public parking is available on the streets and in paid and free lots at oceanfront parks such as Alan Shepard Park, Sidney Fischer Park, Lori Wilson Park and Robert P. Murkshe Memorial Park.

Follow the aptly named Beachline Expressway toll road east from Orlando. Take a right at the Atlantic Ocean, and you’ll find yourself in Cocoa Beach. Pro surfer Kelly Slater got his start in the “Surfing Capital of the East Coast,” and you, too, can try catching waves with lessons from one of the local outfitters.

Prefer to stay dry? Watch the locals hang 10 — slang for when all 10 toes are on the nose of the surfboard — while you cast a fishing line from the Cocoa Beach Pier. Or tackle another water sport from the Thousand Islands Conservation Area; its flat waters are ideal for kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding or motoring about on a pontoon boat. This oceanside town is also home to the world’s largest surf shop — the legendary Ron Jon Surf Shop flagship store — where you can find supplies for your day in the sun.

At dawn, take in the sunrise as you get ready for a day at Cocoa Beach.

 

New Smyrna Beach

  • About 55 miles from Orlando.

  • Public parking is available on the streets and in paid lots at beachside parks such as 27th Avenue Beachfront Park, Grayce Kenemer Barck North Beach Community Park, Esther Street Beachfront Park and Flagler Avenue Beachfront Park.

From Orlando, follow Interstate 4 east and take state Route 44 until you reach New Smyrna Beach, tucked between Cocoa Beach to the south and Daytona Beach to the north. One of “America’s Top Small Cities for the Arts,” this beach town features more than surf shops and ice-cream stands. Art galleries, boutiques and antique shops can be found throughout downtown, just steps from the beach. Support local talent by visiting the Atlantic Center for the Arts, an artists-in-residence community and educational facility.

The area is home to plenty of history, too, including the Turnbull Ruins, a coquina block foundation thought to be where New Smyrna’s founder, Andrew Turnbull (1718–92), tried to build his mansion. You’ll also find the Eldora State House, which was built in 1913 and is one of two remaining buildings from the late 19th-century agricultural community of Eldora. Explore the Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse, Florida’s tallest lighthouse, which began guiding sailors in 1887. Climb the 203 steps and take in spectacular 360-degree views.

 

See all the colors of the rainbow while lounging outside on New Smyrna Beach or inside one of the town’s many art galleries.

 

Daytona Beach

  • About 55 miles from Orlando.

  • In addition to parking on the beach itself, public parking is available on the streets and in lots at the Sun Splash and Breakers Oceanfront parks.

Though many associate Daytona Beach with spring break, the spot has attracted visitors to its 23 miles of beaches, boardwalk and pier year-round for more than 100 years. On the water, visitors can surf and swim. On the beach’s famous hard-packed sand, it’s easy to bike, go for a long walk, build sandcastles — especially at low tide when the beach stretches 500 feet wide — or soak in the sun’s rays.

Take a dip in the ocean and a ride on a Ferris wheel at Daytona Beach.

When the sun goes down, Daytona’s nightlife heats up. Whether you dance and listen to live music at The Bank & Blues Club, party with high energy at Razzle’s Nightclub or enjoy the quiet atmosphere at Tir Na Nog Irish Pub, you’ll find a variety of fun. And, of course, you can get your motor revving at the Daytona 500. The historic race takes place every February at Daytona International Speedway.

Canaveral National Seashore

  • About 50 miles from Orlando.

  • Parking is available within the park.

Between Daytona and Cocoa beaches on Florida’s east coast lie 24 miles of undeveloped beach at Canaveral National Seashore. It’s less crowded than many of the other area beaches; you’ll find quiet solitude broken by soft sounds such as native osprey chirping and waves crashing onto the shore. Walk the short self-guided trails, some of which showcase piles of shells left by Timucuan Indians.

Catch a rocket launch from Canaveral National Seashore.

On the beach, look for tracks from when a mama sea turtle laid her eggs, or witness a hatching during nesting season (April to October). Even amid all the natural beauty, you can spot the launchpads of Kennedy Space Center just east beyond the park’s lagoon. If your timing is right, you might see a rocket launch.

Clearwater Beach

  • About 110 miles from Orlando.

  • Public parking is available on the streets and in paid lots north of Frenchy’s Rockaway Grill, Pier 60 and Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach Resort & Spa.

From Orlando, head west on Interstate 4 to Tampa. Follow the signs along Interstate 275 to state Route 60 and continue until the road ends on the sugar-soft white sands of Clearwater Beach. Clearwater’s broad beaches, turquoise water and nearby hotels, shops and restaurants make it one of the most popular beaches in the area — and beyond. Clearwater Beach was No. 1 on TripAdvisor’s 2019 list of Top 25 Beaches in the United States and No. 6 on TripAdvisor’s 2019 list of Top 25 Beaches in the World.

Mother Nature complements Clearwater’s incredible beaches every night when the sun dips below the horizon and casts deep shades of orange and stunning hues of yellow across the sky. Celebrate the sunset at Sunsets at Pier 60 with evening street performances. Keep an eye out for the elusive green flash as the sun disappears — a phenomenon that’s known to sunset-seekers but rarely seen.

Clearwater Beach’s many palm trees silhouette against the oranges and hazy purples of the setting sun.

 

Honeymoon Island State Park

  • About 115 miles from Orlando.

  • Parking is available within the park.

From Orlando, drive west on Interstate 4 and state Route 60, then follow U.S. Route 19 north through the small town of Dunedin. Take a left to Honeymoon Island State Park. The island got its name from a 1939 Life magazine contest for newlyweds; the prize was a two-week honeymoon stay on the island.

You won’t find high-rise hotels or condos, beachfront restaurants or lots of crowds in what was once a popular honeymoon spot. Rather, outstanding shelling, birding and snorkeling await, as well as several nature trails. Try the Osprey Trail, which offers half-mile to 2½-mile routes and takes you through woods where osprey, eagles and horned owls nest. Along the way, hikers can detour to Pelican Cove. Your pup is welcome here, too, so long as Fido stays with you and on a leash. There is a dog wash area for easy cleanup before everyone hops back into the car.

Escape to the beach at Honeymoon Island State Park for some relaxing alone time.

Check out Alamo rental car deals to find the best car for your family to take to these top beaches.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the best beach near Orlando for families?

Daytona Beach, about 55 miles northeast of Orlando, has attracted visitors to its 23 miles of beaches, boardwalk and pier year-round for more than 100 years. During the day, you can surf, swim, bike, go for a long walk, build sandcastles or just soak in the sun’s rays. At night, you can dance and listen to live music, party at a high-energy nightclub or enjoy the quiet atmosphere of a pub. And, of course, you can get your motor revving every February at the historic Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway.

What’s the closest beach to Orlando?

Canaveral National Seashore is about 50 miles east of Orlando. The 24 miles of undeveloped beach lie between Daytona and Cocoa beaches. Besides being close, Canaveral National Seashore is less crowded than many of the other area beaches; you’ll find quiet solitude broken by soft sounds such as native osprey chirping and waves crashing onto the shore. Walk the short self-guided trails, some of which showcase piles of shells left by Timucuan Indians.

What’s the closest beach to Walt Disney World?

Cocoa Beach is about 65 miles east of Walt Disney World. Pro surfer Kelly Slater got his start in the “Surfing Capital of the East Coast,” and you, too, can try catching waves with lessons from one of the local outfitters. You can also fish from the Cocoa Beach Pier, or kayak, stand-up paddle board or ride in a pontoon boat at Thousand Islands Conservation Area.

What’s the least crowded beach near Orlando?

New Smyrna Beach, about 55 miles from Orlando, is smaller and quieter than its busier neighbors, Cocoa Beach and Daytona Beach. One of “America’s Top Small Cities for the Arts,” New Smyrna Beach features surf shops, ice-cream stands, art galleries, boutiques and antique shops throughout downtown, just steps from the beach. The area is home to plenty of history, too, including a coquina block foundation from the 18th century, the last remaining building from the Eldora agricultural community of the 19th century, and Florida’s tallest lighthouse, which provides spectacular 360-degree views from the observation deck.

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About the Author

Susan B. Barnes, aka travlin’ girl, is a travel writer who enjoys exploring the world as much as her own Florida backyard and sharing discoveries with her readers. Follow her travels online on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.